Louisville Veterans Administration Medical Center project team recognizes Construction Safety Week

USACE - Louisville District
Published May 3, 2022
Updated: May 3, 2022

Personnel from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District, the new Louisville VA Medical Center, and the Walsh-Turner Joint Venture II came together May 2 to kick off a week of events in recognition of Construction Safety Week.

This year’s theme is “Connected. Supported. Safe,” and it seemed fitting as speakers from the various organizations involved in the building of the new Louisville VA Medical Center addressed the crowd about the importance of safety and teamwork.

Gary Schoeffler, site safety and health officer for Walsh-Turner Joint Venture II, said it takes everyone’s commitment to safety and their fellow workers to ensure and maintain safety on a construction site.

“Safety is a value, a belief and an obligation that unites us across individual teams, companies and the entire industry. It’s a connection that is seen and felt between our fellow workers on the job site, between office, management and craft, between companies and even competition, who stand together to keep everyone safe and improve our safety culture industry-wide,” he said. “It’s a strong bond that keeps us connected to each other, and to something bigger than ourselves. We are responsible for the well-being and safety of everyone on every job site. And it is through this connectedness that we are able to ensure everyone can do their best work and return home safely every day.”

Matt Lowe, chief of the USACE Louisville District VA Division, also spoke on the importance of safety on this and every construction project.

“Safety is something that we want to encourage because it’s paramount to any project. USACE has been partnering with construction companies using the EM 385 (USACE Safety Manual) for over 80 years, and when you are doing something for that long we can all get complacent – we can genuinely hear the phrase ‘Safety First’ but not take the time to reemphasize that safety is truly supposed to be of first importance and our job sites should be creating that culture of safety,” he said.

He expanded this by sharing two points.

“Safety is not just following the rules. As a kid, you either followed the rules because someone was there to make sure you did so, or there was some fear of the consequences for not following them. But the way to ensure someone embraces a rule is for them to see the value and meaning of those rules,” Lowe said. “We don’t want to be safe just because someone said so, it’s because of the value it provides. Safety has to be something you believe in, something you’re passionate for, something where you will do more than talk the talk, but instead walk the walk.”

 “The second thing is that safety has purpose, and ultimately, it has purpose because of who you are.  That purpose is you.  Everyone here has someone they love and everyone here is loved by somebody – you need to go home in the same shape that you showed up,” he said.  “This is going to be an amazing medical center serving tens of thousands of Veterans and their families for decades to come.  But there is no brick, piece of steel, foot of pipe, nothing that is out here is more important than any one of you.  I genuinely believe this, so please look out for your brothers and sisters because when I say safety has purpose, that purpose is to protect and guard the most valuable resource on this project…you!”

Other activities that took place on the site during the week in recognition of National Construction Safety Week included demonstrations on aerial boom safety, trench safety, and confined space rescues. 

The $900 million project designed by URS-SmithGroup is being constructed by Walsh-Turner Joint Venture II, Chicago, Illinois.

The project includes the construction of a new 910,115 square foot medical center, parking structures, a 42,205 square foot central utility plant, roadways, sidewalks, and other site improvements.

Construction is anticipated to be complete in 2026.

To learn more about the project visit: www.va.gov/louisville-health-care/programs/new-robley-rex-va-medical-center.